Tonle Sap Lake is a marvelous and unique work of nature, a lake that lives, a lake that breathes. It has witnessed Cambodia from the nothing to the most glorious years. Here there are strange things that can not be seen anywhere else: the towering villages, the giant fish, the river that flows backward,… This lake is full of surprising secrets waiting for you to explore.

Tonle Sap is a freshwater lake, connected to Mekong River through Tonle Sap River. It’s the result of the collision of the Indian Plate with Eurasian Plate. It created a low lying area and then filled up by Mekong River.

This lake has the world’s most varied ecosystem, provide an output of more than 400.000 tons of fish per year.

A living lake

Tonle Sap is like a heart that can truly beat, it swells and squeezes rhythmically every year. This phenomenon is because it’s connected to Mekong River through Tonle Sap River. And this not only affects the life of Cambodian near the lake, it’s also ensure the life of Vietnamese at the Mekong Delta.

In dry season from November to May, water flows from Tonle Sap Lake along Tonle Sap River and them converges with Mekong river. When the rainy seasons begins in May or June, the water levels of the Mekong River rise higher than of the lake and so push the water back to the lake.

It is estimated that during the rainy season, the Tonle Sap swells 5 times its size during the dry season.

By that way, the lake turn itself into a giant, the surface is 4-5 times larger, water level is 10 meters higher as compare to itself in the dry season. At this point, Tonle Sap lake is the largest lake in Southeast Asia.

It also means the rice season is coming, farmers living around the lake start their new hard-working months.

People living along the Mekong River, especially Vietnamese at the downstream area entered their flood season. Slowly rising water brings fish and shrimp. If it weren’t for the Tonle Sap Lake that became a huge water dam, the violent flowing of Mekong River could have swallowed everything on its way including houses and villages.

When the dry season return in November, Tonle Sap River once again reverses its course, the water level drop back, the end of harvest season. At the same time, water flowing toward Mekong River helps reduce the risk of drought in the downstream area.

Under the same roof

The biodiversity of the Tonle Sap Lake is incredible. This lake is home to more than 149 species of marine creature including fish, snakes, crocodiles, turtles,… more than 100 species of birds and about 200 species of plants.

The Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve is split into three main protected areas known as biospheres:

  • Prek Toal (to the Northwest of the Tonle Sap) can be considered the most stunning place for richness of flora and fauna species and the appearance of endemic and endangered species
  • Boeng Tonle Chhmar: home to a variety of flooded forest, fish diversity and water birds
  • Stoeng Sen core area: where the tallest primary flooded forest is found.

Life on water

There are 5 provinces circled around Tonle Sap Lake, which contain more than 3 million old population. Most of the people living here are Vietnamese Khmer immigrants. 90% of them are fisher and farmers and make a living by the resource from this lake.

Due to the transformation of the Tonle Sap Lake, the lives of surrounding people are also deeply affected. They live in unusually tall stilt houses, but when the rainy season came, the water rise up and reach the floor, making the stilt houses suddenly seem like floating on the water.

The people’s lives completely take place on boats and raft, float schools, clinics, shops and markets, gradually forget the feeling of their feet on the ground.

The floating life depending entirely on nature makes it difficult for the locality to get away from poverty. The flow of the lake is critical to the harvest for sustaining food supplies for people living in the area. Therefore, any unusual natural phenomena come, they are the first to take the consequence.

Coming to Tonle Sap Lake, you’ll see towering stilt house, the simple wooden boats, hard-working people and over all, the beautiful smile on the face of naive children. Despite the difficult life, they are still constantly adapting to the harshness of nature, learning to love the beauty of the Great Lake.

indochina travel guide


yen tranMia
I was born in the middle of a city where crazy traffic and noise were my childhood’s fear. But life is too short to just stay safe in my little home, traveling can not be a dream forever, and so, I stepped outside that door and hit the road…

Travel with us to Indochina and discover Tonle Sap Lake now! All package can be customize upon your request:

A glance of Vietnam and Cambodia 11 days 10 nights

It’s not an overstatement that this package gives you a complete grasp of the South East Asia spirit within just 1 trip. The spectacular nature that will definitely make you hold your breath comes from Ha Long Bay – One of 7 Natural Wonders of the World while the cultural value is highlighted in Angkor Wat (Siem Reap). With various local activities like farming, float shopping, traditional cooking,… you will have enough diverse experience to gain a true insight into the 2 countries.

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Mekong Explorer 13 days

This tour will help you explore the cultures along the Mekong River and have interesting experiences. Especially, boating to Cai Rang colorful floating market, you will take a cruising among local barges full of fruits, vegetables and the sweet singing of the girls on the Southwest waterfront will be attract and gives you great feeling about the land and the people here.
In addition, the overall impression of Cambodia is the mysterious Angkor architecture. The nearby Tonle Sap Lake in Siem Reap is also an option we can offer on this tour at your request!

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cambodia Aspara Dancer (2)The Best South of Vietnam and Cambodia 7 Days 6 Nights

This 7-day package tour will offer you the sightseeing the best highlight of Vietnam and Cambodia. You will learn more about our Vietnam war by discovering the most complicated tunnels system in Cu Chi to know how we flight the invader. Additionally, a quick sightseeing to Mekong delta to enjoy the local atmosphere and know more about heir culture will be a highlight of this package. Coming to Cambodia, it offers you the visiting to Angkor complex and Tonle Sap Lake, which cannot be missed while travelling to this small country.


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